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UN reform among top priorities for 2006, Annan tells year-end press conference

UN reform among top priorities for 2006, Annan tells year-end press conference

Outlining his top priorities for 2006, his last year as United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan said today that alongside efforts to promote peace and combat poverty and disease, he was determined to follow through on his wide-ranging agenda of reform and renewal of the world body.

“If there’s one thing I would like to hand over to my successor when I leave office next year, is that it should be a UN that is fit for the many varied tasks and challenges we are asked to take on today,” Mr. Annan told an end-of-year press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, stressing that a strong programme to do that was already embraced by Member States at the 2005 World Summit.

“That programme now hangs by a thread if the United Nations is stalled by lack of a budget. I therefore appeal to all Member States to resolve their differences promptly, and agree on the budget,” he said of the eleventh-hour negotiations over next year’s funding, which has been occupying much of his time of late.

He said the objectives for his last year fall into three priority areas: the fight against poverty and disease; peace and security; and reform of the United Nations.

Among global issues, Mr. Annan said he thought terrorism and weapons of mass destruction would continue to take centre stage at the UN, along with the situation in the broader Middle East, including Iraq and the Palestinian-Israeli and Lebanon-Syria situations. He advised keeping “a very close eye” on the Darfur region of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well.

On organizational reform, Mr. Annan said he hoped to continue making the concrete changes that follow up on the Summit outcome and the agreements from that meeting that have already come to fruition in the form of the Emergency Relief Fund and the Peacebuilding Commission.

His first focus within those areas, he said, will be the establishment of an effective, impartial Human Rights Council and a package of management reforms that he will submit to Member States in February.

The Secretary-General stated he was hopeful that the Human Rights Council could be established before the regular session of the existing Commission on Human Rights begins in March. Over the last two weeks he has been holding talks with Member States on this issue.

“It is slow,” he said, “but I am still hopeful that we will be able – we should be able – to establish a Human Rights Council, if not by the end of the year, [then] probably early in the New Year.”

Affirming that there seemed to be a divide between developed and developing countries on that and other questions, Mr. Annan said good-faith negotiations were the only solution.

“I think the only way to deal with it is for them to dialogue… to sit across the table, look at each other in the eyes and explain their positions, and work ahead – work in the spirit of give-and-take to make progress,” he noted.

Mr. Annan said honest dialogue can salvage the budget negotiations as well, even though as of yesterday only four of the 250 paragraphs of the funding resolution had been approved, tempers are flaring, and some delegations maintain there is an atmosphere of threats and intimidation.

“But they have to put the interests of the Organization first – not narrow interests,” he stressed.

Asked if pressure on the part of some ambassadors was helpful, the Secretary-General said the most effective ambassadors he has known are the ones who have been able to reach out to their colleagues and persuade them to take a course of action.

“They are the ones who have been able to build alliances across regions and have been able to work with like-minded ambassadors to move a reform, or whatever agenda they have on the table. And I would suggest to all ambassadors who want to make progress to go that route,” he said.